By continuing to use the site you agree to our Privacy & Cookies policy

Your browser seems to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser.

Close

Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Close

NHS 111 yet to go live in two out of three sites

Less than a third of England has fully launched the NHS 111 service, with just three weeks to go before the national rollout deadline.

The new non-emergency phone number is due to replace NHS Direct’s 0845 number from 21 March.

However, research by HSJ has found NHS 111 is not yet up and running in 53 per cent of the country, including the whole of the West Midlands, North West, South East Coast and Yorkshire and the Humber.

In a further 16 per cent of the country, measured by the population served, NHS 111 has only “soft launched” - meaning it receives redirected GP out-of-hours calls but not NHS Direct calls.

Six areas could not confirm a planned full launch date when contacted by HSJ last week. Ten areas were planning to launch fully within four days of the deadline.

NHS 111 services must pass tests by commissioners and the Department of Health before they can go live.

In South East London and North East London and the City, both areas in which NHS Direct is involved in providing the service, the soft launch has been put back by almost a month to 12 March. The reason given in both areas was commissioners’ concerns that call centres would not be staffed adequately to cope with demand over the Easter weekend.

South East London is also yet to get approval for its clinical governance from the DH.

NHS Direct has been put on notice by the DH that it may have to provide contingency services for up to 50 per cent of the country when 111 launches. HSJ has learned that the organisation is yet to hear whether its services will be required.

NHS Direct itself had won nine contracts covering 34 per cent of the country. It told HSJ it has recently begun discussions with NHS and private sector providers to explore options for joint ventures, strategic partnerships and its future organisational form. Its other options are to become a social enterprise or seek foundation status.

The national introduction of NHS 111 has been surrounded by significant controversy since the government announced proposals in August 2010.

In a number of areas where it has already launched, it has been blamed for an increase in demand for other services. An evaluation by Sheffield University of the first four pilot sites found there was a statistically significant increase in incidents attended by ambulances.

Meanwhile, unions and others have made repeated calls for the process, which has involved 44 separate local procurements, to be slowed down.

Director of the Ambulance Service Network Jo Webber told HSJ the achievement of the rollout was “amazing” considering the commissioning system reorganisation occurring alongside it.

Ms Webber added: “If [the rollout] doesn’t go perfectly right it would be very easy to rubbish it but it’s been phenomenally complicated.”

A spokesman for the DH said with the exception of Devon and Leicestershire and Rutland, which had previously been granted extensions, the country was “working towards the March deadline”.

“If sites are not ready to launch, the public will still be able to call NHS Direct until NHS 111 is available in their area,” he added.

Readers' comments (32)

  • NHS 111 is being rushed through in so many areas - that it is not being safely managed, and indeed the question has to be rasied about how many patients are falling through the gaps.
    Testing by local PCT teams is farcical, and the DH testing is being run at the whim of one individual with Operational decisions on how a service is run being "demanded" by DH at unsafe times, and with no notice to plan safely for those decisions - indeed those in the newest areas to go live would have seen this at the weekend.
    Someone needs to get a grip of the service - before a patient is seriously harmed by the farce that is ongoing.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • I agree! This whole roll-out is a joke and when you question the individual and raise concerns regarding the testing and the governance you are sidelined and gagged. The model is flawed, the situation reporting is flawed and the mobilisation is flawed. I feel sorry for the providers, who are having software issues to contend with as well as commissioner pressures and DH jumping all over them to ensure they go live within the deadline. I do not believe it is any more clinically unsafe than any existing service but I have yet to experience an improvement for patients, so we will have to wait and see.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • 10.45 and 10.22 - well said. The one fiery DH person, who seems to be the only one involved in this process - is clearly only interested in getting the services live. There have been instances where a service should not have gone live - but it did because "they" did not have time to revist. Decisions made at night or over weekends, that are clearly not the sensible times to implement operational changes, have put patients at risk - although I am not aware of any harm as yet. You are correct that the Daily SitRep is a total joke and is again just a chance for someone to hear their own voice, but god forbid anyone who speaks out of turn.
    Come on DH show some teeth here!

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • our service is going live on April 1st which is both Easter Monday and April Fools day - cant help thinking how appropriate
    Will be interesting to see how nurse triage loads the system - my experience so far is far too cautious far too many just in case checks for patients - we will see

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • Once again another great idea by the ConDems! treble dip down turn loss of triple A rating more cuts on the way but Ha! its all fine in La La land!

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • Yet again the DH make a ridiculous choice to go live with a service at a peak time such as Easter Weekend- good luck to all those involved, but looking at previous experiences, expect somehting like 40% transfer to Clinicians within the service - Happy Easter.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • Yes we could blame the politicians for this - but at the idea is a sound one, but no ine in DH has the prevbial sphere like hanging to say STOP - lets just adjust and think

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • This is an unsafe service which has not fully been tested but is still being rolled out just before a busy bank holiday weekend.
    We all know that NHSD have never managed to cope with the 0845 number volumes at BH times so what will be different here??
    Until a patient dies, which unfortunately will happen, no one is going to take any notice of all the warning signs around not being ready to go-live and just carry on regadless. The North West I believe didn't pass readiness in Feb and are being retested 2 days before go live!!!! Unbelievable!

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • 12:52 - being tested 2 days before go live, don't worry it will be a formality as they will never not let you go live !!

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • my experience in 2 areas is that the DH team refuse to let you 'go live' unless you pass the Clinical safety tests. these are often failed due to poor staff training or other providers ambivalence to the service (GPs and Ambulance trusts). The potential of 111 is huge but without it being fully integrated by providers and local commissioners into their Urgent care system it could become an expensive white elephant.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • 1:15 - it would be interesting to see how long ago your 2 services went live - as there is most evidently a rush on now to get services live. You are correct about the potential for 111 - and the need for integration is paramount. There are still some serious concerns about safety, the running of this service to meet one persons whim

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • Let's not forget this individual has been given clear goals set by DH - it's govt policy/senior DH management at fault with Lansley stating in parliament that a national 111 service would be in place by 1/4/13. The fact is, it's a lot more difficult to set up a brand new service from scratch at scale than they anticipated - especially with everything else going on and the way in which it has been prescribed.

    The balance between deadlines and safe services needs to be addressed and if patients suffer in the rush to announce a 'good news' story heads should roll (although it seldom happened pre-Francis).

    Glad I don't live in an area going live just before Easter - good luck to them! Expect call volumes of 4x a normal weekday and significant peaks in concurrnet calls within that.

    Redefining the NHSD service spec would have been a lot easier but that doesn't fit with selling off the NHS.....

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • What springs to mind when i mention the term 'old boys network'? Now, does anyone seriously think a 'fat old birds network' would serve anyone any better in any way, shape or form?

    Since it became apparent the NHS Direct would not win all the 111 contracts, the whole managerial hierachy has resembled a group of self serving rats jostling for position on a sinking ship, treating staff members like they are worthless even though it is they with little to no understanding of their own policies. People on the frontline, e.g experienced nurses and health advisors have been treated like disposable vermin, whist the department of health doles out contracts to general call centres with none of the appropriate skills whose bid is the cheapest.

    I'll probably get in trouble for saying this but I don't intend to stay for redeployment to a menial role where no doubt i'll be answering to yet another clown both less intelligent and capable than I am before eventually being bumped down a pay band anyway. If any senior or middle management figure reads this and takes issue with it, I haven't written a damn thing here that is either inaccurate or unfair and I haven't made any effort to hide my identity, so feel free to come and have a word.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • 1.40 - well said and congratulations - OOH nurses moving into 111 are all taking a pay cut - the Health Advisors (well trained Call Handlers) are paid a pitance - this is just a way of getting the same old poor service, trying to do more for much less of the cost

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • 1.30 - I agree about goals etc, but this one person is riding rough shod of many people who know how to operationally run a safe service, and is being allowed to do so, as if you do complain or raise concerns your "tagged" and sidelined. So much for whistle blowing

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • What springs to mind when i mention the term 'old boys network'? Now, does anyone seriously think a 'fat old birds network' would serve anyone any better in any way, shape or form?

    Since it became apparent the NHS Direct would not win all the 111 contracts, the whole managerial hierachy has resembled a group of self serving rats jostling for position on a sinking ship, treating staff members like they are worthless even though it is they with little to no understanding of their own policies. People on the frontline, e.g experienced nurses and health advisors have been treated like disposable vermin, whist the department of health doles out contracts to general call centres with none of the appropriate skills whose bid is the cheapest.

    I'll probably get in trouble for saying this but I don't intend to stay for redeployment to a menial role where no doubt i'll be answering to yet another clown both less intelligent and capable than I am before eventually being bumped down a pay band anyway. If any senior or middle management figure reads this and takes issue with it, I haven't written a damn thing here that is either inaccurate or unfair and I haven't made any effort to hide my identity, so feel free to come and have a word.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • whoops,

    was just trying to refresh the page, i didn't mean to post that twice

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • Let's not forget this individual has been given clear goals set by DH - it's govt policy/senior DH management at fault with Lansley stating in parliament that a national 111 service would be in place by 1/4/13. The fact is, it's a lot more difficult to set up a brand new service from scratch at scale than they anticipated - especially with everything else going on and the way in which it has been prescribed.

    The balance between deadlines and safe services needs to be addressed and if patients suffer in the rush to announce a 'good news' story heads should roll (although it seldom happened pre-Francis).

    Glad I don't live in an area going live just before Easter - good luck to them! Expect call volumes of 4x a normal weekday and significant peaks in concurrnet calls within that.

    Redefining the NHSD service spec would have been a lot easier but that doesn't fit with selling off the NHS.....

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • I agree with the majority of the comments that have been posted on this site however there are two factually incorrect statements that I think need to be corrected.

    12:38 - the idea to implement a single number to access urgent healthcare services came from clinicians in the Darzi review. The timetable though is the work of the DH.

    1:40 - the DH have not been doling out contracts, each local area have gone through a procurement or pilot process and have chosen their own providers not solely on price.

    Jo Webber is right, the implementation is unbelievably complicated and clinical and commissioning colleagues dealing with this and the terrible timing whilst also going through huge changes should have our support.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • 4.51 I think we all agree that commissioning colleagues are doing the best they can - and I praise them - they are let down by one DH colleague who is pushing this in the wrong direction, and I do not agree with those comments about the "orders" that person has...... we can all say no..

    Unsuitable or offensive?

View results 10 per page | 20 per page | 50 per page

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment.

Related Jobs

Sign in to see the latest jobs relevant to you!

Sign up to get the latest health policy news direct to your inbox